Lawyers for MLB owners and the MLB Players’ Association will meet in Arizona this week, in an effort to see if an agreement to MLB’s drug policy can be hammered out before the beginning of the season.
The discussion will center around suggested changes to MLB’s drug policy (or, Joint Drug Agreement (JDA)) after the release of the Mitchell Report. As reported by Ronald Blum of The AP:
The sides planned to talk this week in Arizona during the final week of spring training. This would be the third time players and owners toughened drug rules since their initial agreement in August 2002. The sides also made changes in January 2005, when sanctions for first offenders were instituted, and in November 2005, when the penalty for an initial positive test was increased from 10 days to 50 games.
If they strike a deal, the 15-day suspensions imposed on Kansas City's Jose Guillen and Baltimore's Jay Gibbons in December after being linked to performance-enhancing drugs most likely would be rescinded as part of an overall amnesty for players mentioned in the report, two people familiar with the talks said Monday.
If there isn't an agreement, arbitrator Shyam Das probably would be asked to decide whether to stay Guillen's suspension pending a grievance hearing. The players' association filed a grievance on behalf of the outfielder, but no hearing dates have been scheduled.
On February 27th, in front of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Fehr set the stage for the possibility of re-opening up the CBA for an unprecedented third time:
In light of the recommendations made in the Mitchell Report, we have now been asked to reopen our contract for a third time. That is something which neither unions nor employers often do. There are certainly strong policy reasons why an employer and a union should respect the sanctity of a collective bargaining agreement, including its term, and not engage in frequent mid-term renegotiations.
Even so, we have never refused to discuss changes to our JDA at any time during its term, and we will not do so now. We have already held meetings with the Commissioner and his representatives regarding possible changes in the aftermath of the Mitchell Report, and more meetings will be held soon. Indeed, the Commissioner made a proposal to us last week, and we expect to have further discussions, and proposals of our own in the near future. This subject will obviously be one of those discussed in our Spring Training meetings with the players on each of the 30 teams.
One recommendation within the Mitchell Report that may be part of the discussion this week may include an independent testing agency, as opposed to the current Health Policy Advisory Committee (HPAC) that is responsible for overseeing the testing program.
This report continues The Biz of Baseball's extensive coverage of the Mitchell Report, and the fallout from it.
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